City Council gives initial OK to extending moratorium

Marijuana developer files court challenge to Rockland moratorium

By Stephen Betts | Sep 13, 2018
Photo by: Stephen Betts Mark Crockett has challenged the city's emergency moratorium on marijuana production facilities. He has applied for a facility at 266 Main St.

Rockland — A business developer who wants to open a marijuana production facility on Main Street has gone to court to overturn the emergency moratorium imposed last month by the Rockland City Council.

The complaint was filed in Knox County Superior Court by attorney Joseph Baiungo of Belfast on behalf of Mark Crockett of Pen Bay Alternative Medicine Inc.

Crockett had filed an application with the Code Enforcement Office to open a production facility at 266 Main St. The Planning Board held a review of the proposal at an Aug. 7 meeting, but the council voted 3-2 at its Aug. 20 meeting to impose the 60-day emergency moratorium retroactive to when Crockett filed.

The court challenge maintains that there was no emergency to life, property or the public peace, as is required by state law for an emergency moratorium to be adopted.

The complaint states that the council's claim that a scrivener's error makes it possible that a marijuana store could open under the city's medical marijuana production facility ordinance is not an emergency. The council has maintained that the scrivener's error could allow retail sales without a vote of the council, as state law requires.

Baiungo argues in the court challenge that a scrivener's error could be corrected by a simple change to the ordinance.

He also maintains that the procedure used by the council violates its charter, which requires a first and second vote, with the law does taking effect 30 days after the final vote. The council only took a single vote for the emergency moratorium.

Baiungo has also filed for a preliminary restraining order to put the moratorium on hold. No court hearing has been scheduled on that motion.

The attorney spoke before the council Wednesday evening, Sept. 12, and urged councilors to amend the moratorium to prevent only retail stores, if that is their concern.

He said the city has already approved a larger marijuana production facility, and there are only three other applications. He said there was no rush to fill downtown with retail pot stores.

Nick Westervelt of Westervelt Provisions LLC received approval for his project at the May 17 meeting of the Rockland Planning Board.

At the City Council's Sept. 12 meeting, the council voted 3-2 (Councilors Ed Glaser and Adam Ackor opposed) to impose an additional six-month moratorium. A formal public hearing and final vote on the measure will be held Oct. 10.

Glaser argued that the moratorium was not necessary. He also said that the action creates a monopoly for Westervelt.

Councilor Amelia Magjik said that argument was a common misconception, but that it was not done to create a monopoly.

Instead, Magjik said, the moratorium would allow the city to make necessary changes to the municipal ordinances regulating marijuana facilities. She said the elected city councilors should decide what types of businesses are allowed in Rockland, rather than the businesses themselves.

"This has nothing to do with a perceived monopoly," Magjik said.

Glaser countered that there was no misconception.

Magjik has been accused of having a conflict because she is office manager of the construction company that is renovating the 500 Main St. building where Westervelt will open his facility.

She has said she sees no conflict.

The council also voted to hold four municipal ballot questions related to marijuana sales. One would ask whether Rockland wants adult marijuana sales in the city and adult sales downtown. In addition, residents will be asked Nov. 6 if medical marijuana sales should be allowed in Rockland and whether medical marijuana sales should be allowed downtown.

The four questions would be advisory.

Comments (9)
Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Sep 17, 2018 10:03

Any "advisory votes" from the citizenry are just that - advisory. That means the city council can ignore voting outcomes. In the meantime, we have both a conflict of interest and using tax payer $$$ to defend an needless lawsuit.

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Sep 13, 2018 14:44

Amy not that we agree on everything but certainly appreciate your position on this one.  Think we have found common ground

Posted by: johanna stadler | Sep 13, 2018 12:12

gee if I was ms magjik I wouldn't see a conflict either. cough cough cough bologna

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Sep 13, 2018 12:10

I think too.many issues are being settled at the local bakery.

Posted by: Amy Files | Sep 13, 2018 11:43

Council -- just change the ordinance and adjust the scrivener's error already. Do you need a moratorium because of the scrivener's error? Or because you want to make changes to ordinances regulating marijuana facilities? The moratorium states one thing -- and Councilors are making public statements that contradict this. In the meantime, taxpayer $ will be wasted on a lawsuit that could have been prevented. Not to mention that Rockland voters voted to legalize marijuana -- the folks trying to keep it off of Main Street are not the ones who support legal marijuana retail sales. Who is council representing on this issue? Business owners who don't vote in Rockland? Reefer Madness anti-pot crusaders? Do the right thing and allow these businesses to move forward. Fix the scrivener's error if need be but don't use it as an excuse for a moratorium.


Posted by: Don Dickinson | Sep 13, 2018 11:32

You didn't have to look into a crystal ball to see a forthcoming lawsuit on this subject. No surprise here.

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Sep 13, 2018 08:06

Sorry can't find the "Magic" in the City's headlong push to establish a moratorium on marijuana stores.  Amelia continues to dig a deeper hole for herself and the city by defending her position instead of recusing herself from the vote.  This foolish move is going to cost the City (meaning the taxpayers of course) lots of money.  Well at least after this is all over the City attorney should be able to afford a nicer outfit.

Posted by: Ian Emmott | Sep 12, 2018 22:23

Not of any relevance, but this attorney did not care to recite our pledge of allegiance during the meeting today.  As a veteran, that bothered me and says something.

Posted by: Roger Tranfaglia | Sep 12, 2018 18:47

ROCKLAND!  If you want slow growth...FINE! PROCEED!!

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